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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bringing My Mother to China

When you come to China to teach, you are allowed one bag and one carry-on by the airlines.  We paid a whopping sum to bring an additional suitcase each--because, well, gee whizz.  This isn't a vacation, right?  Packing those bags required taking out some good stuff at the very very end because we had exceeded our 50 pound limit--my boots, a jacket, books...But what the airlines neglected to tell us is that departed spirits could travel free and weightless in our luggage!  I didn't become aware of this until last Monday when I was sitting with a large smelly pig feed bag in my lap, cutting off the seams.   Let me back up.  During our stay in Cambodia in February, I took the cultural opportunity with two other BYU teachers, Sandy and Kathleen, to attend a 3 hour cement bag tutorial in a local craft shop.

Our instructors were two ridiculously cute and tiny Cambodian women.  We were barely into the project before one of them disappeared momentarily and then returned bearing large green coconuts almost as big as she was with straws stuck in the top.  So we alternately sucked coconut milk and cranked away on these pre-Columbian (well, almost) sewing machines.  The cement dust flew, the machines chugged, and the 2 foot long rusty scissors/thread snippers were passed around among the three of us.  The bags took shape, we sweated, and our miniature teachers patiently rethreaded the machines.  I need only insert one word here for the reader (who has also sewed) to fully grasp (and probably begin twitching) the true terror of these machines---T-E-N-S-I-O-N. .. Now that you are THERE with us, you would also have appreciated the spontaneous belly laughs from our instructors when I discovered my writing was upside down on the back of the bag, so I slapped a big old pocket on it.  They thought that was just hysterically hilarious.  Incidentally, these cement bags are $39 on etsy thank-you-very-much.  I'm so rarely cutting edge.

(Madd, you're losing them.  Keep it moving!)

Sooo, now you know why last Saturday as we were touring the ancient village of Xinchang, it was completely serendipitous that I would chance upon a pile of abandoned bags tucked away in a dirty corner which just SCREAMED to be recycled into bags!  AND THAT'S HOW I DISCOVERED THAT MY MOTHER, MARTHA TAGGART, HAD STOWED AWAY IN MY LUGGAGE AND HAD BEEN IN CHINA ALL ALONG!  Making bags out of recycled cement and pig feed bags would have been as natural as sneezing for her.  She was the reigning QUEEN (am I overdoing the caps?) of turning unlikely materials (clay pigeons, baby food jars, drapery samples etc.) into candle holders, vases, and bell bottom pants etc.  She reached her zenith when my grandmother's nylon Sunday dresses (polka dots, flowers, paisleys) ended up as unmentionables in my underwear drawer!  I tell you, the woman was gifted.  Can I blame her for the pig feed sack smelling up our little laundry room?  I think that's appropriate.  Perhaps that whistler through the stone wall who has been the background music of life here for 7 months is also channeling my father.  Just one question--who else hopped into our bags at the last moment?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Something Old, Something New

Paco and I met in Beijing 18 years ago this coming July.  It's a mildly interesting story--most people would not take me for a mail-order girlfriend, nor would they ever be "guilty" of conclusively accusing Jerry of doing anything the least bit frivolous.  Internet dating and romance (on first glance) is usually followed by the following:  scandalous, risky, shallow, and skanky.  Our story hopefully shares more optimism and class than those words conjure.  Next August we will return to Beijing to teach in China for yet another year.  I hope to find that gate in the airport where I emerged--knees knocking--and saw a brown-haired, horn-rimmed glassed gentleman holding a hastily scribbled name tag bearing my name.  Perhaps we can petition the Chinese officials to allow us to put a small brass plaque nearby--inconspicuous unless you're looking for it.  My brief experience with Chinese officials leads me to believe a plaque will never happen.  The best we can hope for is most likely a brief inconspicuous re-enactment.  A few astute Chinese may look on but mostly that little moment will be very private.
(Here we are taking a tri-pod selfie at Mutianyu on the Great Wall--December 31, 1997.  This became the picture for our wedding announcement.  We had the entire wall to ourselves.  If you come and visit, we'll take you there!)

Let's all put our stubby little dimple-fingered hands together for Calvin Taggart Giles born a week ago in Roseville, CA!!  As you can see, an adoring cast of three stands at the ready to deal an extra hand to him, share a pool floatie, and call him "Brother."  Happy happy happy times.  What a blessing are children.  The one child policy was initiated in China in 1979--the very year the father of these 4 was born.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hong Kong!

 We passed on the "Mushroom Wagyu Burger".  I'm pretty picky when it comes to my "wagyu"--whatever the heck that is...Looks like they were limited anyway.  Red pockets are used to gift money to Chinese children.  Large amounts capable of buying small cars in some cases, so I hear.

 A very pleasant 90 minute walk around Victoria Peak.  I got zapped by a flu bug in Hong Kong and wimped my way through 5 of the 7 days we were there, but I did drag my bones out of bed for a mighty romp above Hong Kong.  Disneyland will have to wait.  I wanted to get my money's worth there.

We were flying past this trying to catch a ferry, but I just had to stop and document the Hong Kong Apple Store genius bar line.  Iphone 6 was in its barely-just-home-from-the-hospital-keeping-everybody-up infancy stage.

 My new Canon that I bought in Hong Kong takes amazing low light shots!!

I guess you could call this "Fortune Row" because each little space houses an honest-to-goodness fortune teller!  Dozens of them!

Take this gal, for instance.  She's waiting patiently for a customer, browsing the web as she ponders perhaps  her next brush with prognostication profundity.  As I suspected, even the most exotic of jobs eventually become somewhat routine..

Just plain cool.


I counted 12 bags of Chinese takeout!  I hope he gets tipped!

Paco--doing his best Happy Buddha imitation!

 A special shout out to the Myers!  We discovered this Turkish cafe tucked away and dined there twice.  When the management wasn't looking, I squirted those bottles of sauce on the tables straight into my purse--oh my goodness--they were magnificent.

THIS guy!!  Let me tell you about THIS guy!!  He was writing these Chinese characters using nothing but salt or sugar dribbled from one hand!!!!!  I know!!!!!  I should have taken a front shot, but once again we were racing to catch a ferry.

As if we need a reminder that we're a long way from home...Happy New Year to All.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"All I Need is the Air That I Breathe..."

"and to love you."  During my one month hiatus in the U.S., our neighbors and fellow conspirators, the Criddles, took this picture and sent it to me. It tickled me greatly.  Every well-dressed dog in Chengdu is fully attired with a smashing coat, but THIS guy!!! He adds boots (on second thought, it looks like they're trying to BIND his feet!) AND an air filter device which puts him in a category all by himself!  He gets a front seat on his master's scooter and a spiffy clean pink towel to boot!  Truly, China is cutting edge...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oh My...

I wish I could fill this post with a fantastic story of being taken captive into white slavery, loping by camel pursued by enraged Bedouin captives, crossing the Gobi Desert to escape--eating only raw rodents and boiled rocks--and just BARELY living to tell the tale!!!!!  I would finish up out of breath and wide-eyed (much like a kid who arrives home from school two hours late) with: "And THAT'S why I haven't posted."  The real story has much less pizzazz--but is NOT without its thrills!!  Actually, I've been on the road.  The story will unfold over the next few weeks as I catch myself up--reminding any readers yet again that this blog is my chronicle.  I write it basically for myself.  It serves as journal and my attempt at "generativity-ing" (maintaining oneself with a sense of optimism expressed through efforts to pass on what he or she has learned in life to the next generation--Master Class by Peter Spier, which I am reading at the moment.  Anyone over 50 should make a BEELINE for this book!!!!!!!!!).  Here's a teaser:  Shanghai, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Bear Lake, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Siem Reap (Cambodia), and Saigon.  Whew...I have pictures, and I'm sure a running commentary will surface.  For now--a sneak preview!

Hong Kong Island from Victoria Peak

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Caves, Halong Bay, Vietnam

Nirvana--I mean Halong Bay, Vietnam!

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

This young monk asked ME to pose with him!  Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Today is Chinese New Year's Day!  We celebrated the Eve in our home with a student friend, his mother, and visiting cousin from Beijing who brought with him a Peking duck!!  They also brought traditional dumplings which Grandma had whipped up and sent along.  A real feast to which we added our fried potatoes and vinegar cucumbers upon request.  Good times.  Today is quiet--ghost town.  Chinese return to their homes for New Year's Day, which means the country for the vast majority.  Paco is going out to do "reconoissance" to see if signs of life can be found.  On the domestic scene here--we are now hauling dishes into our shower to rinse them (as we shower ourselves!) because our kitchen hot water is a thing of the past.  AND last but not least,

a hearty welcome to Norah--our latest and greatest granddaughter born on Valentine's Day in Provo!  She makes an even 10--but only for a few weeks!!!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

To: 5B With Love From: Madhadder

Dear 5B,
     Hello!!  I took these pictures for you a few months ago and then just never got around to sending them.  At least when I see a hedgehog (or a whole case of them!), I will think of you.  I wish I could magically teleport each of you individually here for a day.  I would take you all over Chengdu, and I am sure I would spend most of the day picking your jaw up off of the ground!  You would be absolutely fascinated by everything.  This is a completely different world.  I spend most of the time saying, "Oh!  So THAT'S how they do it here!!"  Because Chinese culture is 5,000 years old, it is vastly different from our 200 year old American culture!  After four months, I am finally getting a little used to it!
     Yesterday I visited a private elementary school of 1200 students with a Chinese friend from church.  This was THE COOLEST school I've ever been to.

Can you believe this???  A child-sized kitchen exclusively built for teaching American cooking classes!!!

A calligraphy classroom for learning the ancient Chinese art of writing.  Aren't the bowls of ink beautiful?

Notice all of the different-sized brushes hanging.

Pottery room!!

 Inspirational sign.  What do you think???  I think this school needs some Happy Pants signs too!!

A dormitory room.  300 of the students stay overnight at the school during the week and go home on the weekend because they live far out in the province.  All of their slipper shoes were lined up outside each of the rooms up against the wall.  8 kids to a room!!!  Sounds like an eternal sleepover!!!!!  I also met the doctor who lives here with them in the dorm!

My favorite was this magnificent art room!!!  I was drooling!!!

Notice the huge beanbag couch on the left with the red pawprint cloth!  I guess you get to laze there if you finish your art!  Or maybe you can lie there to think about what you want to make!

Oh my...I forgot to tell you that this was the art room for grades 4 and 5.

Paper chairs!  Why didn't we think of that???

And the best thing of all--this OVER THE TOP funky art teacher!!!  Believe me, you do NOT run into Chinese characters like this every day!  Her dress is made of felted wool!!!!!! Go ask Mrs. Etcheverry to explain that to you.  She and I felted wool in Boise a few summers ago.  Does that blackboard behind her look like it might be a gigantic Boogie Board??????

The icing on the cake was this roof garden!!!!  It was about 6 times bigger than this picture can show.
 I have sooooooooo many other things I would like to tell you and show you, but enough about me and 1.3 billion new friends!  How are YOU?????????????????????  Write!  I am so curious about how 6th grade is going for you.  I hope the things we did last year have helped you progress on.  If you're not reading lots of books, I will come and haunt you!!!!  Briston!  YOU have a marvelous time on your cruise!  I want to hear all about it!  Kage, you showed up in my dream the other night!!  Jaxon, last night (did I mention my dream patterns here in China are UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!  If I were still your teacher, I would be telling you about a new crazy dream EVERY day!) I dreamed that Mr. Hadd and I moved in with your family for a year!  I told your dad, "We'll try to be gentle guests."  Isn't that weird?  Ecko, I miss Mugsy more than I can even tell...Everybody else--let's try and facetime again soon.  Write and I will write back!  I see some of your pictures on facebook (Shanyce, Lydia), but I still would like to get an email from you!  Jennifer, my favorite book was Summer, 1927.   I am accumulating Chinese "treasures" for each of you.  We will have a picnic next summer, and you can choose something.  Have a Merry Christmas!  I was remembering the other day about how much fun it was to practice our ukuleles for the program and also when Rosie gave early gifts to us!  And that party!!!!!! BEST EVER, Mrs. Passey!!!!!   I love you all, M. Hadd

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Who Knew...

 that dogs in China have complete wardrobes?  Since the weather has cooled, every day is a virtual Easter Parade of decked out canines!

that Mad needed to come clear across the world to find such complete photographic satisfaction in simple mops and brooms?  The added implements here are wax strainers--useful for removing copious amounts of solidified melted wax out of the water bases of...

these!  Burn a candle for good luck in the coming year!

But, of course, every tradition has its downside.

 (I threw that glove in at the last minute for effect--as did I also with this photo.)

Who knew monasteries held such mysteries as a free floating ball carved in the mouth of a beast,

or that Buddhist monks dry robes and longjohns in the recesses of their monastery? Is this the world's most beautiful laundry room or what???

I found these jokers languishing on the opposite side of that laundry room.

Who knew stairs leading up could be so enticing,

 or that this is the correct spelling of fier?  After all these years!!

 Who knew most of my Chinese friends would be under 3 feet and wear the greatest hats,

 or that some Chinese families include two children and another on the way??

 Who knew you could glaze strawberries and eat them off a stick,

or that so many willing subjects would leap before my camera?  And lastly, who knew

I would find the history of China

 etched onto these faces--telling stories I could never read in a book or see in a movie

or ever...

dream in a dream?

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley